“A nobleman’s’ daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods.”
I received a copy of this book from Orbit in exchange for an honest review.
Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an Ambhan nobleman, the Governor of Jah Irinah but she is also half Amrithi, a nomadic people with a magical connection to their homeland whose population has been dwindling due to the harsh prejudices of the Ambhan Empire. After her Amrathi abilities catch the attention of the Maha, the head of religious faith in the Empire, Merh is drawn into his cruel machinations to maintain dominance.
Empire of Sand started out very strong. I was easily drawn into Mehr’s world and her struggle of being both an illegitimate daughter and a member of a group harshly discriminated against. She struggles with wanting to retain her heritage in a world that doesn’t want anything to do with it or, at worst, seeks to exploit it. She was everything that I wanted in a heroine. She makes the tough choices and continues to grow in inner strength despite efforts to beat her down.
I also really liked Amun. His character is based on an extremely tragic past but I loved that it didn’t turn him cruel. He was beaten down to the point that rebelling against the Maha was not even a thought because it had been reinforced so many times that trying to do so was futile. He just wanted to show kindness and mercy where he could an I loved him for it.
“His hopes had always been smaller than hers. All he’d wanted was a modicum of kindness; a small, sand grain of mercy.”
Finally, I greatly enjoyed the predicament that Mehr found herself in at the end. The Maha is cruel and despicable…but he has set his power base up in such a way that Mehr and Amun can’t simply tear it down without world-ending consequences. I love reading stories like that where there are no easy answers.
All that said though, while I was really into this book for about the first third or so, at some point I kind of became disengaged. I don’t even know why this happened but I found myself trudging through the middle parts of the book. It wasn’t a fast-paced book to begin with but it felt like it slowed down a lot.
All in all, this was a very strong debut book. Mehr’s story here reaches a nice conclusion but is open-ended enough that I can see more books about her coming in the future. I don’t know if there will be straight sequels or more sideways sequels but I look forward to reading about her and Amun again.